ICT Takes Center Stage

Dr. Stefan Schloter, CIO of T-Systems

SAP.info: How would you describe your market environment? What topics are currently shaping information and communication technology (ICT)?

Dr. Stefan Schloter: We’re facing stiff competition. That is in part due to the increasing tendency of the ICT market toward low-priced products, and in part due to extra pressure caused by the financial crisis. IT budgets were frozen and were hardly increased later.

Customers today are interested above all in innovative solutions from the cloud. We call this “dynamic netcentric sourcing.” You receive a service, such as an SAP solution, from one of our data centers, and only pay based on usage.

Along with cloud computing, mobility and security are also hot topics. The mobile workplace will be relevant for more than two-thirds of ICT decision-makers in the next five years. And more than half of them rank security third among the most important topics.

How do your customers view information and communication technology? 

For our customers, ICT has become very important strategically. ICT contributes significantly to the growth of the gross domestic product, and half of all industrial products depend on the use of ICT. Many decision-makers therefore say that ICT has evolved to become a critical infrastructure. And they want to have this infrastructure provided to them, without their having to invest too much effort. They want to concentrate on their actual core business.

What role do you and your IT team play within T-Systems?

We are the driver for an optimized IT and process landscape within T-Systems. The integrating factor in bringing together processes and IT is very important to us in this role. Improvements in processes usually go hand in hand with the introduction of new IT systems and functions, and vice versa. Through the increase in efficiency that is achieved we ultimately contribute significantly to the success of the company.

A second important function of our team is the role of internal sparring partner and copilot for development, sales and delivery. The motto “use what you sell – sell what you use” applies to us also – as internal IT we therefore have an exceptional challenge to meet. I’m especially pleased when we put new IT solutions into use internally that we can also make available for sale externally.

T-Systems has been an SAP partner for many years. What is your collaboration with SAP like?

Over the years, we have built a strategic partnership with SAP that has many facets. This is reflected, for example, in the current customer validation program for SAP CRM and SAP ERP, but also in numerous certifications and awards. As part of this partnership, we have the chance to evaluate new software functions for IT development, and to use them ourselves and for our customer projects.

Everyone profits from the close collaboration: SAP gains closeness to the market and can incorporate the wishes of its customers in the software at an early stage. The resulting higher standardization produces synergy effects, and T-Systems can more easily integrate these solutions in the IT landscapes of its customers. The direct contact to customers and to SAP strengthens our competitive position.

You are using SAP CRM for your CRM project SalSA, and are using SalSA to replace a Siebel legacy system. What were the reasons for the change?

The primary reason was to meet the demands of our specific business model. In meeting these demands, it was important to embed the new CRM application in a standardized, seamless IT architecture with as few interfaces and integration gaps as possible.

We also wanted to take a new approach to improve both process and user support in our sales department. The most important arguments in favor of the SAP solution were that it is intuitive to work with and also integrates mobile devices. In addition, the application is cross-departmental and makes it possible to centrally access all customer-relevant information. Since we are using the T-Systems Dynamic Computing Platform for SAP, we could also significantly reduce IT operating costs.

What goals have you set for yourself with SalSA? Were there difficulties during the switch?

It was important for us to switch all 3,500 users over to the new system within a year – users from sales, marketing, campaign management, and complaint management. In part, we needed to optimize processes. At first that was difficult to convey to people, but optimized processes are essential for inter-departmental collaboration. Only through the close cooperation of all those involved in the project were we able to accomplish this huge undertaking.

The project was a success because we were able to achieve a good understanding of the issues through open and objective dialog. In looking back, I can say that the team did an excellent job in handling the implementation of the SalSA application.

What do you consider to be the biggest successes of your project?

The praise we got from our own colleagues. Particularly from those who were very skeptical about the project at the beginning. People changed their minds as it became clear that the system would be accessible everywhere. The advantages relating to data entry and reporting finally convinced even the more critical colleagues.

For me personally, the most significant achievement was that we were able to complete the project in 22 countries in only 12 months. We chose Scrum as an agile development method to be able to accomplish this complex task within such a short timeframe. The advantage of this method is that it makes it possible to react quickly to new or changed requirements. Only by working closely with SAP was it possible for us to implement a system switch in all T-Systems international subsidiaries practically overnight. I’m extremely proud of this accomplishment – and of the intensive and constructive collaboration of all those involved.

I’m particularly delighted that the accomplishment of the project team has also gained recognition outside of our company. We have been presented with three awards for SalSA: bronze for the CRM Best Practice Award, gold for the SAP Best Quality Award Germany and silver for the SAP Best Quality Award EMEA.

What about cost effectiveness?

We expect to be able to recoup the project costs within the first 3 years. As for operating costs, we have measured a savings of 15% so far in comparison to our previous system. Also across areas, SalSA has demonstrated a very positive balance..

And what does the future hold for your SAP landscape?

SalSA was only the first step on the way to our target architecture. Currently we’re working on continuing development of our IT for automated processing of “lead-to-cash.” By connecting SAP Convergent Charging with our CRM platform and modernizing our ERP landscape, we will be laying the foundation for an even more optimized IT infrastructure.

What are your plans as CIO for the coming years?

As I see it, the classic role of the CIO will change dramatically. The social media tidal wave, which can no longer be held back, and the trend toward unified communication will profoundly change the tasks of the CIO. The CIO will still be responsible for the information and communication technologies of his or her company, but the challenges on the way to Enterprise 2.0 will change fundamentally. In the next few years, the CIO has to develop further into a Chief Collaboration Officer (CCO). I plan to take on this challenge, in order to help our employees and ultimately our customers to benefit from these trends.